Tuesday, 4 July 2017

God's delays are not denials but gateways to greater joy

“God’s delays are not His denials...”

This is a quote that I have heard a million times. Well, maybe not a million times, but it surely feels like that! It is possibly one of my all-time favorite phrases to be used while consoling someone who is in despair.
“Hey! Don’t worry. Things will sort out. God is there to help. Remember... His delays are not His denials.”
But my attitude towards the quote depends on how life is panning out for me. When things are sunny and fine, I completely trust the quote. When things go bad however, I seem to desperately grab on to the quote with the secret hope in my heart that this is only a delay and not a denial from God. The truth is whether I ‘believe’ in it or not, God definitely has the perfect timing and His delays are only to bring added joy! I know this to be true based on multiple experiences with my Swami, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. One singular experience however, stands out because it reinforces this quote with two simultaneous experiences of delays not being denials.

The Master walks into our life at the perfect time - ALWAYS!
Just like a single story of the charming Lord Krishna gets linked to so many other stories which reveal His divine facets, this incident too shall have its sub-stories. In fact, ‘deviating’ from the main story into sub stories has been termed as ‘Hari-Katha’ in India, a composite form of storytelling with poetry, music, drama, dance, and philosophy, which often runs for hours! The sub-stories add flavour and spice to the main story. So, here is one such Sai-Katha.

A class teacher’s classy talk

It was the March of the year 2000. I was in XII grade and was preparing furiously for the countrywide Board Examinations. In India, 12th standard is a transition from high school to University and the examinations conducted by the CBSE (Central Board for Secondary Examination) are given paramount importance. For a student in Swami’s school, it was a time of another probable, terrible transition. Since Swami had not started any medical or engineering colleges and courses for chartered accountancy, those wishing to pursue these lucrative and attractive careers had to leave Swami’s physical proximity. Further studies available in the University involved only the pursuit of a Bachelor's degree in pure sciences, commerce or the arts which is considered ‘mediocre’ by many. (This is fast changing in part due to the impressive record of the Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning).

In that scenario, an informal talk delivered to us by our ‘class’ teacher, Dr.Sailesh Srivastava was vital in the enlightenment it provided. The talk lasted two hours and was delivered late in the evening in the galleries of the Sri Sathya Sai Hill-View stadium. The next day, we were to travel to Brindavan (Whitefield in Bangalore), as the school’s outgoing batch and seek His blessings.This was the practice - the outgoing students from Puttaparthi, Brindavan and Anantapur would travel to wherever Swami was and hope to elicit an interview or at least padanamaskar. The talk that Sailesh sir gave us was inspirational and full of the divine stories of Swami. He made one particular point that struck us and seemed to get enshrined in every listening heart.

He said, “Whether we stay with Swami or not, is not in our hands. If we are supposed to be away from Swami, even if we perform somersaults to stay on here, it will not be possible. If we are supposed to be here, however hard we try to get away from this place, it will not be possible. So, that is out of our hands. That is destiny. But we can decide what we feel and desire. We can have the intense longing to be with Swami always, irrespective of where life takes us. We can choose to give Swami first priority always. That is self effort. Take care of your feelings and desires which are in your control, life will take care of itself. “

At the end of that talk, everyone was wanting to be with Swami, irrespective of what they had originally desired or what their parents had planned. If fate/destiny would take them away, so be it but they would certainly not want to be away from Swami at any cost.

The rewards of the inspirational talk

Thus it was, that a bunch of highly motivated and charged up students made their way to Brindavan. In the morning, as we all sat for darshan, Swami came and made enquiries into how many of us had come and for what reason we had come. The darshan got over during which we had managed to hand over the bundle of letters that we had all written to Swami. Within a few minutes, we received word that Swami had called us all into Trayee Brindavan, His residence at Whitefield.  With great joy, anticipation and excitement we wended our way into the Trayee compound and entered the hallowed precincts of the building. The Jhoola or swing welcomed us and we sat around it. In a few moments, Swami arrived. As soon as He came into the room, He asked,
“How many doctors here?” 

Nobody raised their hands. Sailesh sir’s speech on the previous evening was obviously showing its effects. Everyone in their hearts was saying,
“Swami, we want to be with you.”

All of us in Trayee Brindavan that day had only one wish - to be with Swami always...
“How many engineers here?”, was the next question.
Again, nobody raised their hands. Swami put on a surprised expression. Then He broke into a smile and said, “Antha Gas” ( All gas meaning that we were lying).  

All of us shouted loud in unison,
“No Swami! We want to stay with you!”
He seemed pleased by that and then He sat on the Jhoola. The session began by us singing songs for Him and He listened to three of them. Swami then began to speak to us. The warden of the Brindavan campus, Sri. B.N.Narasimhamoorthy, came in, uninvited, to translate. Swami told him that he would not be needed and He would talk directly with us. We were all surprised. We wondered who would be translating if Swami spoke in Telugu?
As the Brindavan warden left, Swami told Sailesh sir to translate what He was speaking! It was the most amazing 40 minutes as Sailesh sir, a Delhiite by birth, translated Swami’s discourse into English for all of us! Swami spoke about 2 things to remember and 2 things to forget.
Swami making Sailesh sir translate the discourse made us realize the meaning of being an ‘instrument’ of the Lord. When God’s work is being done, capability, ability and deservedness do not come into picture at all. The Lord achieves all that He wants effortlessly through the instrument He chooses. It was not as if Sailesh sir was being used as an instrument just now. Even the speech in the stadium had been Swami’s message for us. Today, It was as if Swami was rewarding Sailesh sir to be an instrument for already being a good instrument!

Two upakathas (sub stories) in the Harikatha

I remember two episodes that happened distinctly - one that is relevant to the story and the other which is probably not but is nice to narrate nevertheless!  

We noticed two small coconut shavings lodged in Swami’s hair. One of us, Vijay Kumar got up and told Swami,
“Swami, there is something lodged in your hair.”
“Is it? Will you remove it then?”
The boy moved further up and tenderly took those two small shavings from Swami’s hair. There were smiles all around and Vijay treasured those shavings in his pocket. Swami looked into his eyes and smiled. It was such a sweet and intimate interaction.
My immediate thought was,
“Oh! How lucky is Vijay! How I wish I too get a chance to take something out of His hair like that...”

Vijay gets a beautiful opportunity to pull out coconut shavings from His beautiful hair...
That strong urge to get a ‘chance’ of interaction with Swami was possibly what lead to the next episode that am about to narrate. It happened towards the end. Swami completed the discourse and sat on the Jhoola expecting us to make the next move. I had always wanted to get the solution for a nagging problem. So I asked,
“Swami, how should one control anger?”
“Ah! Anger”, Swami replied, “Whenever you get angry, go to the bathroom and open the tap. Try to sing a bhajan in the pitch of the running water. You will cool down. Another option is to immediately see your face in a mirror. It will be distorted and you will see yourself as a primitive monkey. That will bring a smile on your face and dissolve your anger. If nothing works, go and run fast for a furlong. You will be too tired to be angry then!”

I think I have learned how to control the expression of anger to a certain extent. Am still battling to stop it from arising in the first place. :)

The delay that seemed like a denial

The whole session concluded with a group photo with Swami on the Trayee Brindavan stairs. It was a very memorable hour and we slowly filed out of the Trayee compound. The campus warden told us later that Swami had been mighty impressed with our batch saying that all wanted to stay with Him. In fact, He had even said that all should be taken into the Institute.  All of us were thrilled.

After the Board exams and completion of school education, quite a few boys from our batch went out to pursue careers in medicine, engineering and other professional areas. But the majority applied for Bachelor courses in the Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning itself. The entrance exams, group discussions and interviews for admissions were completed by early May because Swami had announced that there would be a Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality for all the enrolled students.

When the results were announced, we found out that about half a dozen applicants from our class had not made it and thus had been denied seats. While most of us reported to and joined the hostel at Brindavan, these unfortunate boys felt horribly left out. They went at once to Sailesh sir, who was naturally attending the Summer Course, and poured out their heart’s agony.
“Sir! We wanted to be with Swami but we have not got seats. Should we take this as our destiny and go home and try for further education elsewhere?”
Like Sherlock Holmes in deep thought, Sailesh sir answered after a considerable silence.
“In normal circumstances, you could have done so. But during our session, Swami was happy and He said that all must be taken in. So, hold on. Remember, God’s delays are not His denials.”

Ah! There appeared that phrase!

Taking heart from what Sailesh sir had said, the boys waited on. They were no longer recognised as students - they were ex students now. Hence, their preferential seating during darshan was also gone and they were sitting with the alumni for daily darshan. In the meanwhile, all of us began to attend the daily auditorium sessions, dining sessions and discourse sessions with Swami. When we would meet these ‘rejected’ and ‘dejected’ boys, we would not know what to say. Somehow, your fortune appears very mean and bad when presented in front of those from whom that very fortune has been snatched away.

After about 4 days, a couple of members from the ‘unfortunate’ group lost heart and said that they were leaving. If they waited any longer, their chances of getting a seat into any other college too could be affected. In life, while we can seek advice from hundreds or thousands, we are always alone while making decisions. Well, not if we have surrendered to the Jagannataka Sutradhari, the puppeteer of this show of life! The other ‘rejects’ held on to the ‘delays are not denials’ tagline and prayed. The group, reduced from eight members to five, arrived for morning darshan on day 6 of waiting. That day, as Swami was moving around during darshan, He suddenly ‘saw’ these boys and asked,
“How come young students are sitting in the alumni block?”

The boys hurriedly told their predicament to Him. Swami turned around and called the vice chancellor, Sri S.V.Giri. He told him,
“These boys must study. They are young and should not be wasting away like this in the alumni section.”
The vice chancellor just nodded his head. Swami continued,
“Interview them and give them seats in our college. Young boys must study!”
Two hours later, the group was with us in the hostel shedding tears of joy. They told all of us, “God’s delays are not His denials”.

The Divine word is always upheld

How many times has Swami said that His word, once given, will always be upheld? In fact, when the Super Speciality Hospital was being constructed at Bangalore, there was a shortage of funds. Swami was apparently very ‘tensed’ and ‘apprehensive’. He asked a senior,
“What should we do? There are no funds.”
In an attempt to comfort Swami, the elder said, “Swami! You have promised the world this hospital in one year. The last time you promised, you made the hospital at Puttaparthi and it has been running fine for 10 years now. Just announce that the opening of this hospital will be postponed by a year. People will understand...”

Swami looked at Him with compassion and said,
“Is this all that you have understood of Swami? I have already said that the hospital will come up. So, now I am helpless. It has no choice but to come up.”
The hospital was inaugurated as per schedule.

God always steps in, not at the last moment but at the right moment.

Fast forward to 2003 summer. Swami got down from the golf-cart vehicle that He often used for darshan. I was given the opportunity of placing the foot stool for Him to use that day. As Swami got down, I noticed a mango flower in His hair. I said,
“Swami there is something in your hair.”
He bent down, smiled and said,
“Will you take it out for me?”

I got my 'Vijay' moment (Vijay means victory) when Swami asked me to take the mango flower out of His bushy hair!
Delays are not denials!
 My heart flashed back to the simple prayer that had arisen in my heart, three years ago. As I gently and tenderly plucked the flower from His hair, I realized, once again, that God’s delays are never His denials.

 For all the readers:

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  1. Beautiful... It feels really wonderful to read such experiences...

  2. Wonderful memories, thanks for sharing barru, sai ram

  3. The finish was as sweet as mango.Sincere desires sometimes minor are also fulfilled by Swamy. How lucky we are to read and experience Swamy ;!!!thanks brother for sharing these. sharing your experience helps many readers to enjoy and relive physical Sai.

  4. Kaushik asked Swami in the same session,"Swami how do we control bad thoughts..Pat came the reply,"Like you light incense sticks to drive away bad odour,so too replace bad thoughts with good thoughts." Wonderful Lord,wonderful session,wonderful memories and wonderful writing.

  5. Sairam Aravind after reading this well written narrative what comes to mind is"Why fear when I am here".

  6. Sairam I always love reading your devotional musings recollections and this one reiterates the faith that we all should have on Him at all times, Thanks

  7. soo sweet.
    thanks for sharing

  8. If i had to cherry pick one experience in my student life, this would be the one. Loved this epic recollection Barru. I was a witness to the whole cycle and was a part of the collective prayer. I believe individual prayer is important but the act of praying together brings us into God’s presence in a fuller dimension than when we pray alone. It was a bitter sweet pill that we had.
    The speech has had a profound impact in my life. The beauty of the lord's message is the way a single message is understood and assimilated by each of us as if, it was a one to one session. His simplest of solutions our "Complex problems" during his interaction blow us off. Indebted to you for documenting the whole narrative.

  9. Sairam... That was so divine.

  10. Sairam. It was so sweet and divine as always.

  11. OM Sri Sai Siddha Sankalpaaya Namah.
    Dear Lord, You are the full filler of all our desires.

  12. Dear Brother - Sairam

    Thank You so much Brother. Always happy to read your writings and hear from you again and again - suffused with love for Dear Swami. Thank you so much for giving us the writing from your Dear Book - Memoirs of Sai Student - Chapter 14 - "Swami's Delays Are Not His Denials". Thank you so much for the loving Swami's photos. Thank You Brother for this Gift of Love :) Thank you, Deva

  13. Lovely as ever. Swami is THE only ONE we need. Everything else is just an eventuality.

  14. "Take care of your feelings and desires which are in your control, life will take care of itself. “- excellent . sairam

  15. This Story came just at the right time for me. My efforts are continuesly remaining aware of His presence. It is helping me tremendously. We are so fortunate to experience Him even today!
    Thanks a lot for this posting.

  16. Thanks a lot for sharing such lovely experiences. Sairam


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